House fire heroes

By Jason Miller
posted 10.10.11

Concrete and Grasmere fire departments responded to a single-family house fire in Concrete the evening of Sept. 23.

The blaze was first noticed at about 10:40 p.m. It destroyed the structure, located at 45501 Main St. at A Ave. in Concrete. The fire appeared to have been electrical in nature, and started in the attic area at the back of the two-story building, according to Concrete Fire Chief Rich Philips. The fire’s heat severed the connections of an electrical service at the north peak of the house, causing the electrical wires to fall across A Ave., throwing sparks up to 20 feet.

No lives were lost in the fire, thanks to quick responses from four Concrete young men. Anthony “Mitch” Todd,  20; Tyler Post, 17; Caleb Omstead, 17; and Taylor Sterne, 17, were walking west on Main St., intending to go to the high school and await the Concrete football team, which was returning from an away game in Fife.
Sterne and Post first noticed flames and sparks coming from the roof peak at the rear of the house. Todd raced back to alert the Sheriff’s office at Town Hall. Sterne kicked down the front door and went inside with Post, while Omstead ran to the back door to see if he could get in there. Meanwhile, Sterne and Post found homeowner Miechelle Herrera asleep on the main-floor couch.

“I woke up to hear these boys saying, ‘Excuse me, ma’am, your house is on fire,’” said Herrera, who shares her house with niece Britnie Oversby and friend Allison Donovan. “Then they very politely escorted me out of my burning house. They deserve a plaque.”

Herrera managed to save her passport; purse; a poster-size photo of her son, Daniel; and her three Chihuahuas: Hollywood, Koko, and Rain.

Four engines from the Concrete and Grasmere fire departments arrived at 10:45 p.m. to do the heavy lifting of extinguishing the fire, taking care not to go near the downed power line until PSE crews arrived to shut off the power at the pole. Chief Philips said the state of the roof and second floor were so bad, he wouldn’t allow the crews inside. Concrete firefighter Dylan Abendroth corralled one of Herrera’s dogs, Rain, who had broken free and was trying to get back inside the house.

Herrera’s niece and friend weren’t home when the fire started, a fact that has its up and down sides, said Philips.

“Granted, they were never in any danger, but had they been in their (upper-floor) bedrooms, they might have noticed the fire and been able to report it sooner,” he said.
The four young men who rescued Herrera are being called really nice names, like “heroes.” But they shrug off compliments with grins.

“Anyone else in our shoes would have done the same thing. You can’t let a person burn,” said Sterne.

Herrera, Oversby, and Donovan have found temporary housing with help from the Red Cross and locals, such as Hi. Lo. Country Inn & Café owners Harold and Cheryl Pitts.

“I’m lucky that I live in a small town and am surrounded by good people who know me,” said Herrera. She said her girlfriends and others bought her shoes, clothes, dog food, and a stash of Pringles potato chips—her favorite snack. The Concrete Eagles—of which Herrera is a member—held a fundraiser, as did the Hi. Lo. Country Bar & Grill.

Herrera and her housemates were able to salvage only a few personal items, however, so Herrera has set up accounts at Columbia Bank for Oversby and Donovan. Anyone who wishes to contribute is encouraged to do so. Questions may be directed to Herrera at 360.722.0077.

Herrera is understandably grateful to the four young men who acted quickly. “I don’t know if they realize this, but they did save my life. I would have slept through that fire,” she said.

Post and Todd’s father, Rich Post, a friend of Herrera’s, is proud of the four young men, but can’t help analyze the situation in hindsight. “I told them, ‘that’s good, what you did. But no more running into burning houses,’” he said.

Above: Miechelle Herrera of Concrete poses on the steps of her former home with the young men she credits with saving her life after they kicked down her door and pulled her from her home while it burned the night of Sept. 23. With Herrera are, from left, Anthony “Mitch” Todd, Taylor Sterne, Tyler Post, and Caleb Omstead.

The devastated home, four days after the fire.

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